Archive for April, 2012

What drives YOU?

I don’t know about you, but I feel as though the personal development brigade have hijacked the word passion – so much so that it’s become overused and, I don’t know, somehow demeaned. It’s got to the stage where I often feel you can’t use it without people either silently groaning and rolling their eyes or saying, knowingly, “woo-woo” behind their hands :-(

So I’m going for the word “drive” – you substitute it with whatever works for you but, whatever you call it, this is a worthwhile exercise doing not just once but every now and again – especially when you feel deflated, low and lacking vim or vigour, your mojo’s deserted you – see, I’m even steering clear of un-motivated and un-inspired 😉

Your business in context

Your business isn’t your life (at least, I hope it isn’t!) but it should be contributing to the best life you can envision for yourself, after all, as far as we know this isn’t a rehearsal, is it? Because, whatever your beliefs about life, death, reincarnation and eternity, we only get one chance at this life.

In a small business – whether it’s just you or you have a team of employees supporting you, you by and large are the business so, if you’re not out there in front being and projecting the business you want it to be, it will suffer

… I’m not saying it’s always easy because we all have good days and bad, days where the world seems to be our oyster and days where nothing goes right. But if we behave as though we don’t see the point in our business why should anybody else give two hoots?

How many times for example have we been to a networking meeting where at least half of those there:

  • Aren’t even mildly enthusiastic about what they do
  • Can’t easily and adequately explain the purpose of their business
  • Can’t differentiate their business in a way that makes us want to engage with them?

How does this sound?

If you want to be treated as more than just a commodity – how can you continuously ensure that you are more than a commodity to your clients/ customers?

What do you do for your clients or customers that they’d find it really difficult to get elsewhere?

To give you a laugh on me, when I was much more into the sales training focus of helping small businesses, one of my very good clients once told me he could get that aspect from any one of several different places and delivery routes. He already had a business coach and yet, get this: he would struggle to figure out where he could get the kind of help I provided… excuse me while I go and slap my hand against my forehead… :-(

In many ways I was his external human potential consultant: I made him stop and think when I believed he was about to louse up relationships with employees and suppliers. I told him to go home – I know, bossy boots 😉 – and see his young kids before his long suffering wife gave up yet again on them seeing their Dad… I told him off when what he was instructing the employee he’s hired me to train on sales to do something that got in the way of I was helping them achieve…

What I’m saying here is not how wonderful I am, it’s:

  • How does our inner compelling drive feed into our perceived value to others and
  • What/ where is our real value?

Because once we know the answers to those two questions, surely we can build on that precious information, can’t we?

Your thoughts?


My biggest business mistake?

Well, it may not turn out to be my biggest ever in the fullness of time, but it’s certainly the most expensive to date in terms of time invested and lack of earnings. And I see entrepreneurs making their own version of it all the time, day in, day out…

As many of you know, my background is in sales & marketing communications in the broadest sense: telephone sales and face to face sales, sales training, market and marketing research, brand, product and service positioning and development, and so on.

As my story unfolds some of you will undoubtedly ask yourselves “Why didn’t she see that coming?” The short answer is that, left to our own devices and sometimes the input of well meaning but usually insufficiently qualified friends and loved ones (that’s if we even listen to anyone), our perspective is that we’re too close to see the wood for the trees and will not allow us to do what an eagle does: constantly switch from the panoramic ‘big picture’, zoom in to the detail and back again.

The Big Idea

What do most individuals do when they cut loose from corporate land and set up their own stall as a brand new entrepreneur? They do what they enjoy, they’re good at and what comes easily to them: their own Big Idea.

But, I reasoned, very few if any would have acquired the skills of the composite sales & marketing background that I had. So, unless they’d been planning and transitioning gradually from employment into doing their own thing – whether that’s setting themselves up in a job where they are the boss or starting a business that they intend to grow, franchise and/ or sell – this is where the cracks often start appearing: They’re open for business but where are the customers who should be beating down the door to get at them and their fabulous offerings?

Now I don’t claim to know loads about how to build a business into an empire – the idea had never occurred to me – but I do know that I’m very good at helping others get the clarity and necessary skills to communicate the value and uniqueness of what they have to offer, and build their own businesses, so what better than to create a course dedicated to that? One that would:

  • Teach them skills that would easily enable them to win business that would recoup their investment many times over in double quick time
  • That they could fit their learning in and around their business
  • That enabled pinpoint their specific needs
  • That allowed them to design their unique route through the course with their own coach/ trainer
  • That provided exercises that let them safely test out their new learnings…
  • And worksheets to complete that enabled me to measure their understanding and use of their new learnings

I even began to think that maybe I could could grow this into a business that could be franchised at some point… oh, heady stuff, indeed! 😉

A little aside

It’s not long ago, only beginning of the noughties, that the Internet was young, as was online social and business networking. The creation, hosting and optimization of websites was in the hands of a select few self styled experts – the first release of WordPress was not until May 2003… It happened to be in this era that I created the course so you could argue that the need was greater then for interactive sales & marketing communication skills because there were fewer affordable routes to market for start ups and small businesses. Yet to offset that, I’d venture that the economy was more buoyant and there wasn’t a trend of corporates ousting employees wholesale, effectively to make their own way any way they could…

Back to the main plot…

So I had a tremendous time designing the course: By the time it emerged many months later onto the unsuspecting world it was indeed my beloved, treasured, beautiful, clever baby.

What I discovered then was that I could find very few business owners who would commit themselves to doing the course. Did they not trust the course and me to deliver? Did they not trust themselves to step up?

I was chatting to a member of a business brainstorming group I ran and it was the first time he really understood the scope of what the course covered and helped businesses to achieve. His comments were along the lines of:

“Brilliant concept. Fantastic service. Utterly wrong market. They’ll never appreciate its true value or pay you what it’s worth.”

I was flattened

In hindsight he was absolute right, of course. For ages I went around muttering and bewailing the fact that most owners of small businesses – the very ones who most needed the help I was offering them – would rather complain about the ‘sad state of things’ (i.e. not enough profitable customers) than do something to alter that state.

So what could I do?

Two things.

The first was to take the sales skills parts of the course – telephone and face to face – and target owners of businesses that had a dedicated (or even semi dedicated) sales person or persons who were under performing. I found that they would pay the money for the employee to go through the training and learning far more happily than if they themselves had to do the work.

The second, and this came later, was to fully take on board the realization that you can’t sell what you think people need – especially when that seems to them to be so huge it’s everything strong>including the kitchen sink.

I just counted the Modules in the original business owners course – 29 of them (15 on soft skills training and 14 on sales training)! :-(

Understandably, people will only intend to buy what they believe is necessary to get the desired solution. I’ve discovered that can be either a bit more than they think or a lot less! So it took a while we now have a range of solution based offerings as opposed to “look-what-I-know-and-can-help-you-learn” process-based offerings…

To paraphrase something I heard recently:

“Concentrate on the destination not the method of transport”

What clangers of your own would you be prepared to share?

Linda


Speaking “Opportunities” – What is their REAL marketing value?

If they’re paid there’s your fee plus whatever extra you may get down the line. If they’re unpaid or, even more scary, you’re being asked to pay for the opportunity to speak… that needs a lot more careful consideration, I’d have thought…

I’ve just come off the phone from talking with a friend. At one point she mentioned that she had to put together a 15-minute talk about empowerment (through her area of expertise) that she’ll be delivering to a group of about 500 in a week’s time. No money involved. Trouble was she wasn’t sure how she was going to address the subject, which is unlike her…

It sounded like a potentially good opportunity to me, so I asked her to tell me more about it and that’s when it started to become a bit like pulling teeth…

Me: Who are the 500 people going to be?
F: Mixed gender, various ages I guess

Me: Closed or open group?
F: Open

Me: Employees? Self employed? Redundant workers? Business start ups?
F: Er, a mixture, I suppose

Me: What’s the occasion?
F: Something that’s going on in (name of town)

Me: What kind of event is it? What’s its purpose? Why would people attend?
F: Don’t know. There’ll be stall holders there and several speakers. The stall holders are each being charged £10 and attendee entrance is free… That’s all I really know. I only met the organiser for the first time yesterday and we just hit it off… She’s sending me a flyer.

Me: Well, why don’t you give her a bell, tell her you’re preparing your bit and and ask her to take a couple of minutes to give you the low down on these points? I’m sure she won’t mind.
F: Yes, that’s an idea.

Me: It’s the only way you’re likely to get any kind of feel for the target audience in time to tailor your talk to their likely needs… Now, get off the phone – you’ve work to do! :-)
F: Okay, ‘bye…

The importance of research

I’m not about bursting anyone’s bubble but I know what it’s like to put a lot of effort into preparation to speak to X amount of people at somebody else’s event only to discover you could have sat round a kitchen table to chat with the the number who actually turned up! :-(

And I’m well aware of the fact that people will say they’ll turn up to a freebie without even really thinking it through: there’s no binding commitment to that. If it’s raining on the day or ‘something better’ crops up you won’t see them for dust…

So a couple of minutes after I’d put the phone down I was searching the Internet for the women’s group I thought my friend had mentioned that her new contact runs. After a couple of false starts I found the website and the event next week is being promoted on the home page…

  • The event is for new and small business owners
  • 3 of the speakers are talking about different aspects of Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Blogging
  • The other 4 are on Funding, Finance, Self Employment and Bookkeeping

I then Googled the venue which has 4 rooms with a combined total capacity of approximately 170 people – to accommodate everyone: stallholders, speakers and attendees…

The likely value of this particular speaking “opportunity”?

The answer, I believe, lies entirely on what my friend expects to get from it, directly or indirectly.

  • If it’s clients from attendees, I’d say she’ll be lucky if her audience on the day is made up of 50 to 100 new and small business owners and some mates who’ve ‘come along for the ride’, rather than the 500 mentioned.
  • From my own experience, owners of new and small businesses “have short arms and deep pockets”, as one of my Scottish friends would say 😉
  • But the event is likely to be covered by the local press – as one of the speakers she might get a mention.
  • A bit like at a networking event, she’ll be making contact with a whole bunch of new people, each of whom might know somebody who might be a potential client.

And at the end of the day, another pal of mine pointed out to me that his speaking career was effectively launched at his first ‘gig’ where only two people turned up!

What are your thoughts or experiences you’d like to share?


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"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."

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